This video is a half hour tour of spectacular mushroom photographs. Including glow in the dark mushrooms and time lapse that lets you watch mushrooms move as they grow. I’ve had a long standing interest in mushrooms (and other fungi) for a variety of reasons. Some are great to eat, while others are incredibly toxic and lethal. Some are very pretty, and others not so much. A few have mind altering properties, some cure cancer (at least that’s what is asserted by their advocates), and some are critical to proper operation of forests and gardens. Without them, compost would just pile up forever.
There was a time in early earthly evolution when life had just moved onto land and the dominant type was fungi. Some the size of modern trees. Only later did the present zoo of animals and botanical garden of plants evolve. Yes, at one time this was a world of fungus. They are still everywhere, but humans usually ignore them. Half way between animals and plants, they live from the dying of others. They eat, but with digestion outside rather than inside. Some make Vitamin D in the sun like we do. They share the making of chitin with all the insects and crustaceans of the world. In many ways they are like animals that can not move around. Yet in structure and appearance, are more like plants. Roots, stems, fruiting bodies…
I sometimes wonder if they are the common parent from which both plants and animals evolved. But know it isn’t the case. Algae were around before mushrooms and fungi took over the land. The reality is more along the lines of animals being distant cousins of fungi:
The opisthokonts (Greek: ὀπίσθιος (opísthios)=”rear, posterior” + κοντός (kontós)=”pole” i.e. “flagellum”) are a broad group of eukaryotes, including both the animal and fungus kingdoms. The opisthokonts, previously called the “Fungi/Metazoa group”, are generally recognized as a clade. Opisthokonts together with Apusomonadida and Breviata comprise the larger clade Obazoa.
Flagella and other characteristics:
A common characteristic of opisthokonts is that flagellate cells, such as the sperm of most animals and the spores of the chytrid fungi, propel themselves with a single posterior flagellum. It is this feature that gives the group its name. In contrast, flagellate cells in other eukaryote groups propel themselves with one or more anterior flagella. However, in some opisthokont groups, including most of the fungi, flagellate cells have been lost.
Opisthokont characteristics include synthesis of extracellular chitin in exoskeleton, cyst/spore wall, or cell wall of filamentous growth and hyphae; the extracellular digestion of substrates with osmotrophic absorption of nutrients; and other cell biosynthetic and metabolic pathways. Genera at the base of each clade are amoeboid and phagotrophic.
The close relationship between animals and fungi was suggested by Thomas Cavalier-Smith in 1987, who used the informal name opisthokonta (the formal name has been used for the chytrids by Copeland in 1956), and was supported by later genetic studies.
Early phylogenies placed fungi near the plants and other groups that have mitochondria with flat cristae, but this character varies. More recently, it has been said that holozoa (animals) and holomycota (fungi) are much more closely related to each other than either is to plants, because opisthokonts have a triple fusion of carbamoyl phosphate synthetase, dihydroorotase, and aspartate carbamoyltransferase that is not present in plants, and plants have a fusion of thymidylate synthase and dihydrofolate reductase not present in the opisthokonts. Animals and fungi are also more closely related to amoebas than to plants, and plants are more closely related to the SAR supergroup of protists than to animals or fungi. Animals and fungi are both heterotrophs, unlike plants, and while fungi are sessile like plants, there are also sessile animals.
Cavalier-Smith and Stechmann argue that the uniciliate eukaryotes such as opisthokonts and Amoebozoa, collectively called unikonts, split off from the other biciliate eukaryotes, called bikonts, shortly after they evolved.
Essentially, once eukaryotes (complex nucleus) evolved, they split into those with a tail in the back to push them around and those with a tail or two in the front to pull them around. We’re from the group with tails in the back… Some evolved from single cells into mushrooms and other fungi, others evolved into worms with mouths, then eventually evolved into all the other animals we know today. One clever worm evolved a tooth. That was pretty much the biggest leap forward in the world of worms, and from that we get all the vertebrates of today. The toothed worm that eventually added fins, spine, skull and jaws, turned fins into arms and legs, and eventually learned to type…
So while the fungi are very very distant cousins, they are not quite plants. So here’s the family album of their clan:
You also get to see the flies that hang around your face in Australia. I loved my visit there, but the flies in some places are a real annoyance. New Zealand doesn’t have them, and at that time the plane would have a crewman walk through spraying pesticide to prevent any being carried from Australia to New Zealand. I didn’t run into any in the Outback, so they seemed to be limited to places with water. Or maybe I just didn’t spend enough time out back…